SHIRLEY — Property owners Raymond and Sandy Farnsworth have offered to donate a piece of land near Mulpus Brook to the town, but a resident researching the property has pointed out possible title problems.
“Mr. Farnsworth wanted to donate the land to the Conservation Commission,” said Principal Assessor Rebecca Caldbeck.
The Farnsworths live in Maine, she said. They would prefer to donate the land so they don’t have to pay taxes on it anymore, she explained.
The land is assessed at $27,000, said Caldbeck.
The commission approached the Board of Selectmen with the proposition. The selectmen voted to accept the land with the stipulation that the commission pays legal expenses from its land acquisition fund, said Caldbeck.
However, resident volunteer Ward Baxter researched the title to the property and brought to Caldbeck’s attention that the land may be three separate parcels.
Each parcel may have its own title, Caldbeck said at the Dec. 17 Board of Assessors meeting.
“So this could be a title disaster,” she said. “If you get into a parcel with title, boundary and ownership issues, it’s going to be a disaster.”
“Why would they even want it?” asked Assessor Joseph Saball.
The property isn’t zoned industrial, said Caldbeck, and there’s a 200-foot construction setback under the Massachusetts Rivers Protection Act.
“Apparently, the Board of Selectman isn’t driving this,” she said. “Conservation is.”
A memorandum drafted in 2005 from the assessors recommended certain criteria when accepting parcels into town ownership, said Caldbeck.
The assessors presented the criteria to the board as a guide to protect the town from possible legal issues and costs.
The memorandum suggests the municipal lien information be requested to ensure that all taxes are paid to the date of acceptance, a title search be performed and liability issues, such as hazardous waste, aren’t present on the property. In addition, it asks the board to review whether maintenance, such as grass mowing and brush removal, will be necessary at an additional cost to the town and whether it’s acceptable for public uses, including hunting, trapping or fishing.
The assessors approved a second memorandum to be forwarded to the board with a copy of the 2005 memorandum, suggesting that a complete title examination be conducted on the Farnsworth property, urging the board and commission not to record the deed until all legal issues have been examined.
“I don’t think we’re going to say yes or no to this parcel, but if we send them this memo, they might think twice,” said Saball.